Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,
Steven
unzeugmatic

Sliding Through Wisconsin

Weather, weather, all the time, that's the Minnesota subject. Even when there isn't much to say about it, that in itself becomes the topic. So everybody around here is happy once again because they are predicting a possible three-day stretch starting Friday when the temperature will remain below 0 F. We may have the coldest temperatures we've seen in FOUR YEARS, gleefully trumpets Paul Douglas in the AccuWeather NowCast. It's actually quite warm for January just at the moment (today's weather issue is freezing rain and sleet), but even so people have started to complain IN ADVANCE about the upcoming cold. Yes, it's true: While it is still warm out people are complaining about how cold it's going to be. With the exception of a few bitter days in December, there just hasn't been much to complain about this year, so all that weather whining is just stored up to bursting.

But me, I don't care how cold it will be this weekend, because I will be home and safe and not on the road in Wisconsin, clinging worriedly to the car door handle with a horrified feeling of danger and doom. No, that was Sunday night and that's quite enough for me for the year, thank you.

I drove to Chicago this weekend with my neighbors and landlords Stephen and Scott, to attend an all-day shape-note singing on Sunday. We had a pleasant drive down on Saturday, a wonderful dinner with friends Saturday night, and a very nice singing on Sunday where we got to be with many old friends from around the midwest. We left Chicago not long after 4pm, beneath clouds and fog, which turned into mist as we headed north.

Something seemed odd when we stopped in Janesville Wisconsin for gas (45 miles south of Madison), because it was wet and rainy but when we got out of the car it was quite cold. We did not, however, have the sense to stay in Janesville. As we reached Madison we were confused by the state trooper with his lights flashing driving ahead of us at 35 miles per hour, but we slowed down anyway just before we noticed that off in the distance there were front headlights facing us, on our side of the road. Several -- not one but three or four -- cars had spun around on the highway at a point where it became an overpass. Stephen was driving at the time, and he didn't admit until much later, when we were dry and safe, that for a brief period about this point we had lost all traction. But we were, in fact, ok, and we kept going.

I noted about then that our car antenna had, quite quickly, become covered with ice. We determined this was not a good sign. But the road at this point seemed ok. We really would have stopped for the night if the no-traction situation returned. We drove pretty slowly, though, with eagle eyes out for anything amiss.

What was amiss was the sight of dozens upon dozens of cars and pickups that had skidded off to the side. Many of these cars were already being towed, so we think that the ice hit strong and sudden before we arrived, and that the surprise factor of the ice formation is what had caused a good deal of the trouble. We noted that most of the skids had taken place in the southbound lanes, so we concluded that the driving was probably drier up north. Then we came upon what had been a major accident in those southbound lanes, with cars overturned and many emergency vehicles and ambulances. This backed traffic up for many miles in that direction. We think that this traffic backup was probably a very good thing, as it prevented additional cars from zooming down the road, or even from driving fast once they passed the accident. Viewing such a spectacle puts the fear of the road in you but good. We ourselves were in something of a state of fear from the time we maneuvered past the spun-out cars at the very beginning of the icy patch.

The road conditions improved about the time we got to the Wisconsin Dells, and things were quite dry and the stars were visible by the time we reached Eau Claire. But boy, that was a trip to warm the heart of a weather complainer.
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